Creating Effective Sales Teams

By Lain Ehmann

It used to be that the only certain things were death and taxes. Now you can add another item to the list—unending change. “Salespeople are called on now more than ever to handle change,” says Seleste Lunsford, senior product manager for AchieveGlobal’s sales performance portfolio and co-author of Secrets of Top Performing Salespeople (McGraw-Hill, 2004). Part of that change is the need to work with other salespeople and internal resources to create an effective sales team. Here are her top tips for creating high-performance teams.

  • Take the lead. When working with a sales team comprised of co-workers with different roles and responsibilities, the salesperson has the lead role with the customer or prospect, says Lunsford. Clients can become overwhelmed if you introduce the folks from the legal department, a sales engineer or two, a product specialist, and an R&D engineer without a clear description of who’s responsible for what and who the customer should call if he or she has a question. “Even though you’re bringing in all these resources, it’s your account and your opportunity,” she says. Stay in control as the point person.
  • Use your skills. As the customer’s main contact you need to be able to influence and lead your sales team even if you don’t have direct authority over them. The best way to do that? Remember that you’re a salesperson, says Lunsford. “Use your powers of persuasion and influence,” she says. Sell the members of your sales team on your vision of the account, while taking advantage of their individual strengths. “You have to become a team leader even though they don’t report to you,” she explains.
  • Keep all players on the same page. Brief your team members beforehand on what’s expected of them, your strategy for the account and any pertinent information. If a team member doesn’t have a lot of experience in front of customers—and many nonsales personnel don’t—you might need to give a short Sales Skills 101 course. You might even want to create a shut-your-mouth signal you can use during the meeting with the customer to let your co-workers know if they’re going off on an inappropriate tangent.
  • Keep it on a need-to-know basis. Newer sales reps often err on the side of bringing in too many internal players, while veteran salespeople tend to bring in too few, says Lunsford. Figure out beforehand whose presence is needed and keep your ego out of it. “People are reluctant. They don’t want to minimize their own role,” Lunsford says. If you view yourself as a relationship manager, however, you can maintain your role at the forefront while bringing onboard the people you need to give your customers the service they deserve.

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